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THE POSTWAR PERIOD
World War II provided a sharp break with the Depression and Depression- era issues. The conversion to a war economy quickly ended the unemployment of the 1930s, and political and military events abroad shifted the nation's political focus from internal to external. From the end of the war to this writing, the country has followed a generally successful economic course. It is true that there have been several recessions, the most severe of which is the one that began in 2008, and several brief inflationary episodes, but on the whole the U.S. economy has flourished. There was thus much less willingness, at least until the present, to contemplate radical changes than there had been during the Depression. Perhaps this unwillingness was just a matter of heeding that bit of folk wisdom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Then, too, the success of capitalist economies in Western Europe, Japan, and North America contrasted with the poor performance of centrally planned economies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and militated against major moves toward national planning.
Postwar planning initiatives thus took place within a relatively conservative framework. Where possible, they involved a heavy reliance on private initiative and private capital. Typically, the major planning initiatives also involved a combination of federal, state, and local effort. A share of the funding and some legislative guidelines were provided by the federal government, but much of the initiative, detailed planning, and implementation came from state and local governments. As discussed in Chapter 18, planning in many European nations in the 1980s and 1990s came to resemble the American model much more than it had in the early postwar period, partly for some of the same ideological reasons and partly for economic reasons.
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